NORMAN LEWIS (1909 - 1979)
Oil on canvas, 1954. 1065x1127 mm; 42x50 inches. Signed and dated in oil, lower right.
Provenance: Ex-collection Joan Murray, New York; private New Jersey collection.
Norman Lewis was an isolated but emerging figure in the New York art scene after the war. He was one of the few black artists who had completely embraced the new abstract idiom, in an art world which had yet to fully accept this style. Norman Lewis painted his early, post-war abstract paintings with both a linear and atmospheric compositions. This painting is an early example of his interest in the figure/ground relationships, later championed in the work of the Abstract Expressionists by the critic Harold Rosenberg. His dry brush technique evokes both visual depth, natural forms and the surface of the canvas. By 1955, his fellow painters and followers of Abstraction Expressionism had achieved international prominence. Despite winning the important Carnegie Institute prize for painting that year, Norman Lewis, for the most part, was not included in the success of his contemporaries. Romare Bearden and Harry B. Henderson, Jr., A History of African-American Artists, p. 325.